There was a time where I hated the Devin Harris trade.
It was early in the season. Devin had quickly wowed the Atlanta crowd in his first game, scoring nine of the team’s first 15 points. He did, however, finish that game with just nine points.
That was the start of what was a rough couple of months for Devin. He couldn’t hit a shot, was clanking free throws left and right, and quite plainly looked like he just didn’t fit in the rotation. Then he got hurt, missed about a month, and it seemed quite clear: the Hawks could live without Devin Harris, and may have actually been better off with Marvin Williams.
The problem for Devin is that his role on the team was still unknown at that point. Between Jeff Teague, Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, John Jenkins, DeShawn Stevenson, and Kyle Korver, minutes weren’t something that were always guaranteed. At some points, it felt like he’d be the one left out of the rotation.
However, injuries started to effect the rest of Atlanta’s guard rotation. Korver had back spasms, DeShawn started having problems with his knee, Morrow was falling out of the coaches’ favor, and of course, Lou tore an ACL. All of these factors led to an increase in Devin’s minutes and a more defined role: the team’s second ball-handler and primary guard defender.
After he came back from his December/January injury, Devin averaged 11 points and four assists per game. His free throw numbers steadily improved, and his true contributions to the team started to be reflected in his on/off court efficiency numbers.
For the season, the Hawks were 9.2 points per 100 possessions better when Devin was on the floor. This was the best differential by a rather large margin, and was largely reflected on the defensive side of the floor. Yes, the Hawks did shoot better and turn the ball over less when Devin was playing, but his ability in defending the pick-and-roll, which are much more competent that Jeff Teague’s, was the best asset he brought to this Atlanta team.
The lasting image of Devin Harris from this season will likely be him untangling himself from the cameramen on the baseline, and walking to the charity stripe for two free-throws. The Hawks had a hard enough time getting to the line as a team, so seeing a player put everything out there in a futile attempt to score a couple of points was refreshing. While Devin’s reckless abandon led to some of his injury problems, his presence on offense was palpable. When he pushed the ball up the floor, his teammates responded. If he was trying to drive the ball to the hoop, Jeff Teague often played copycat and tried to do the same. Simply, the result was an Atlanta offense that passed more, did so more effectively, and scored more points.
Devin’s future in Atlanta is still uncertain. His contract is up, and he could potentially have some suitors that simply offer Devin more than the Hawks are willing to pay. That said, I’m sure that all of us in Atlanta would be fine to have him back for another season.
BEST GAME: Devin torched his former teams a couple of times this season, but none was better than his 24 point, four rebound, five assist night against Utah. Those aren’t even the most eye-popping numbers from this game: he scored 24 points… on eight shots. An added bonus is that Ivan had 13 points and seven boards in this game and gave us this interview afterwards.
BEST HIGHLIGHT: It’s only natural that after talking up Devin’s defense for a few hundred words that his highlight play came on the defensive end, right?
Yes, that is from the game where the Hawks came back from a 27-point deficit.
AVERAGE GAME GRADE: 5.5/10
SEASON GRADE: 7/10